The New College Try: How to Find the Right College For Your High School Student
Local educators share tips for helping your high school student find the right college.
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“Fall is crazy busy around here with seniors as they’re starting to get their applications out,” Lauck says. “So September through November is really focused on seniors.”
Mistakes that rising seniors can make is not having a well-rounded list of schools they are serious about. “Even this far in the game, some of them still just need a little bit of extra time to figure out where they want to apply,” Lauck says. “Do they want to stay far from home? Do they want to be closer? So they’re still cultivating their list to include a range of schools. Part of creating that list is to separate yourself from your peers and what they’re excited about. It’s hard not to be influenced—we all are at every age—but it’s important to think of this as being entirely your own experience, something you get to do differently than everyone you’ve been at school with for 15 years.”
“It is now up to them,” Maslar says. “Seniors need to have done their homework over the summer. We’re asking those going to schools with a specialized interest to really be delving into those programs.”
It’s also the time for students to be drafting essays. “They’ve had a number of weeks off,” she says. “I’m going to ask, ‘What did you do?’ The closest summer to applying to colleges is the most important.”
Students should seek internships, if applicable, at schools they are interested in. Masler advises students to visit commonapp.org, a website that offers The Common Application, a fillable PDF application used by about 500 schools.
“Look at the essay questions on the common app and really start thinking about it,” she says. “Once you enter senior year, you are hit with course work, graduation requirements, sports … if all this causes you to rush off an essay, it’s going to look just that way. Students should have been pacing themselves to this point.”
And ready or not, Lauck warns, “Deadlines are backing up much, much earlier. For example, public universities in Georgia are now overwhelmingly using Oct. 15 deadlines, so Georgia is asking for stuff immediately. And then [a deadline of] Nov. 1 comes shortly after that.
“They have to be ready to start senior year with as much in hand as possible and that includes just writing down big ideas. Come see me in August before school starts and let’s really try to develop your [writing] voice in a way that is still true to you and the story you want to tell.”
That story, for students at both schools matriculating into four-year schools, is one of success. “I think that rather than looking at [the college process] from the standpoint of being a fearful experience, students should look at it from the standpoint of just the excitement,” Schuckert says. “It’s incredible to see how they thrive in their new environments, and a positive perspective really makes that work.”
Says Lauck, “The most important thing to remember is there are simply no guarantees. This is not college admissions of 50 years ago, it’s not even college admissions of 20 years ago. Keep an open mind—don’t spend time dwelling on what you can’t have. There are so many wonderful opportunities either 3,000 miles away or 20 minutes down the road. If you’ve done your job, you’ll get where you’re supposed to be.”